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Welding Know-How

July 29, 2008
By: Darrell Smith, Farm Journal Conservation and Machinery Editor

Shivering in the prairie wind and barely able to hear because of a roaring grain conveyor, Frank Kovacevich was in no mood for a prank call or a telemarketer. So, when a Farm Journal editor informed him he had won the 2008 Welding University drawing, he answered, "OK,” and went back to loading a grain truck.

When Greg Risenmay received a similar call, his wife's grandparents were skeptical. "Tell Greg not to spend any money,” they cautioned.

But the phone calls were for real. Out of 4,406 entries, Kovacevich, of Ottawa, Ill.; Risenmay, of Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Jason Bockey of Delphos, Ohio, won the grand prize—welding training, equipment and gear.

After a two-day all-expense-paid trip to Miller Electric Manufacturing Company's headquarters in Appleton, Wis., the three farmers headed home with practical stick- and MIG-welding and plasma-cutting tips, their choice of a Bobcat 250 welder/generator or a combination of a Millermatic 212 MIG welder and a Spectrum 625 plasma cutter, a Miller auto-darkening helmet and Arc Armor protective welding apparel.

Slick stick tricks. All of the winners had stick welding experience; but at Welding University, they learned several new techniques.

"The instructor showed me a couple techniques I hadn't seen before,” Kovacevich says. "One of them was the whip technique [moving the rod out and away from the puddle, then ‘whipping' it back in]. I had only learned the circle technique [rotating the rod counter-clockwise, pushing it back into the puddle, rotating to the front and then again pushing back into the puddle].”

Working with center-pivot irrigation equipment on his farm, Risenmay told Miller welding engineer John Granato that he often has to weld rusty, thin metal. "Be sure to use the right electrode—either 6011 or 6013,” Granato advised. "The 6011 electrode was made to run on DC current. But it can also run on AC power for less penetration.”

Plasma cutting was a new experience—which prompted Bockey to rethink which prize he selected. "I thought the Spectrum 625 could only cut 3⁄16"-thick metal, but Ric Armstrong, the instructor, cut ½".”

"I was impressed with how a plasma cutter conducts less heat than a torch, leading to less warping of metal,” Risenmay says.

Kovacevich was intrigued to learn that when equipped with a special tip, or "gouger,” a plasma cutter could be used to remove old weld metal when repairing equipment. "That could save a lot of grinding,” he observes.

At the conclusion of the training, "I was walking around in a state of awe because of all the things I'd learned,” Risenmay says.

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